Syracuse University Magazine


Sascha Scott

Intuition for Art

Six years ago, art history professor Sascha Scott came across a Georgia O’Keeffe painting that tugged at her mind until she finally established a space for it in her research work. That process—of turning toward something she finds visually interesting with an eagerness to learn more about it—is one she has come to trust and value. “I think art has something very powerful to say about the moment in which it was created and that its messages and meanings echo forward through time,” says Scott, director of graduate studies in the Department of Art and Music Histories and a faculty member in the Native American Studies Program. “It is really moving to have a painting call to you like that. For art historians, following one’s intuitions about a work of art is important and can lead to the most rewarding projects.”

That pull to know more is also the impetus behind Scott’s passionate interest in 19th- and 20th-century American and American Indian art and her study of the politics and ethics related to representations of Native peoples. “In the 1920s and ’30s, there was a serious issue with cultural and political suppression of Native peoples, and artists and writers took a real lead in challenging the federal policy of assimilation at the time,” says Scott, a 2014 Meredith Teaching Recognition Award recipient. “But because those artists and writers sometimes relied on what we would consider today to be reductive stereotypes to do that, they both bolstered this civil rights movement and got in its way.”  

Scott’s research in this area has gained national recognition. She was awarded the College Art Association’s (CAA) prestigious Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize for her article, “Awa Tsireh and the Art of Subtle Resistance,” published in The Art Bulletin (December 2013). “The article is in part about Native artists from the 1920s, but it is also about the responsibilities of museum institutions today toward collections that were made by or represent Native peoples,” says Scott, who received the Wyeth Foundation for American Art Publication Grant in support of her newest book, A Strange Mixture: The Art and Politics of Painting Pueblo Indians (University of Oklahoma Press, 2014).  

Also an avid runner, Scott has long blended the quest for both academic and athletic excellence. As an undergraduate studying anthropology at The Colorado College, she was a two-time All- America hurdler, earning her an NCAA post-collegiate scholarship. She ran seriously while earning a master’s degree in art history at George Washington University and pursuing doctoral studies in art history at Rutgers. In 2006, she finished 11th in the mile at the National Indoor Track and Field Championships, while completing her dissertation and working as a Smithsonian American Art Predoctoral Fellow in Washington, D.C.

More recently, she competed in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, an annual local event that drew 8,564 participants from 316 companies in 2014. As a member of Team SU, Scott won the women’s division in the 3.5-mile race with a time of 20:12. “The great thing about running is that at some point you get so tired you cannot think about anything else, and this clears your mind,” she says. “At the end of the run, I almost always come to a solution of something that was bothering me—whether it’s a research idea I’m trying to work out or how to get through to a student who is struggling with a paper. So this process—of getting out of my mind, into my body, and then back into my mind—is beneficial to what I do as an intellectual and a teacher.”     —Amy Speach